6 Ways to Save Money on an RV Road Trip

RV travel still comes with some expenses. Here’s how to keep them in check.

One of the great pleasures in life is the road trip.

A road trip can get expensive, though.

RVing on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saving money on unnecessary spending frees up bucks for other things. While an RV is one of the biggest investments we can make, the ways we can save when camping with our RVs, are almost limitless.

Most motorists share one common goal—to get the best mileage possible. The desire for the best fuel efficiency is especially strong among recreational vehicle owners. There are many ways that you can reduce fuel and related costs while enjoying life ‘on the road’ in your RV.

RVing at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many RVers take measures to reduce fuel consumption through simple steps like driving 55 instead of 65 or 70 mph and packing lighter to reduce weight in the RV.

Following are six ways to save money on fuel this summer:

RVing in Organ Pipe National Monument in southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Avoid High Speeds

Decreasing your speed saves money. The greatest improvement in fuel economy is the speed we drive. As your speed increases, your aerodynamic drag increases. Driving faster pushes more air ahead of the RV which creates more resistance to forward movement. Driving 62 mph rather than 75 mph will reduce fuel consumption by about 15 percent.

RVing on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Do Not Accelerate or Brake Hard

Accelerate gradually, both from a stop and when entering a freeway; avoid sudden jack-rabbit starts and rapid acceleration. By anticipating the traffic and applying slow steady acceleration and braking, fuel economy may increase by as much as 20 percent.

RVing at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Anticipate Traffic Flow

Look at the traffic as far ahead as possible in order to avoid unnecessary stopping and starting within the flow of traffic. Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

Brake smoothly, avoiding fast stops; rapid braking wastes fuel and cut down your mileage.

RVing on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Look ahead and anticipate traffic conditions. Slow down well before you need to. Instead of slamming on your breaks just before the line, slowly ease off the accelerator, coasting to a stop and thus avoid wasting fuel and wear on the brakes.

When the light changes green, forget that pedal to the metal mindset and, again, ease into it.

RVing at Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Another fuel saver is to keep tire air pressures at the levels recommended by the tire manufacturer. Tire pressure can severely affects fuel economy.

If the tires are low on air, the engine has to push harder to move the RV ahead. It is important to know that tires can look normal when they are seriously under inflated.

RVing at Bartlett Lake in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Regularly check the air pressure in all tires, when the tires are cool (air pressure increases while you are driving).

Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency.

Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure.

RVing at Deadhorse Point State Park in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Reduce Idling Time

Be kind to your RV engine by idling it the proper amount of time at your starts and stops, but never idle for excessive amounts of time. Besides polluting the air and wasting your fuel, this will cause your valves, pistons, and injector to build up with carbon which will hurt your pocketbook in the long run. Check your owner’s manual for recommendations related to your model.

RVing at Badlands National Park in South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Control Your Weight

Added weight significantly decreases fuel mileage and increases wear and tear on your tires.

Keep in mind that everything you put in your RV has weight. The average couple carries approximately 2,000 pounds of “stuff,” and many full-timing couples carry as much as 3,000 pounds.

When possible, travel with empty gray and black holding tanks and fresh water tank no more than ¼ full.

The following are approximate weights of the liquids that RVs commonly carry:

  • Water—8.3 pounds/gallon
  • Gasoline—6 pounds/gallon
  • Diesel fuel—6.6 pounds/gallon
  • Propane—4.5 pounds/gallon
RVing at Jasper National Park in Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now Let’s Go RVing!

Worth Pondering…

I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.

—Jackie Mason

Prep Your RV for Summer Travel

The weather is getting warmer and summer will soon be here

Now is the time to start planning your summer travels. But prior to booking a campsite, owners of recreational vehicles should perform some basic and routine maintenance to ensure that their road trip goes smoothly. Preventative measures and maintenance will reduce the risk of problems.

It is a much better to take care of any problems while at home rather than having to deal with costly repairs while on the road. Trouble-free camping makes for happy camping.

Plug it in and turn it on © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plug it In – Turn it On

After taking the RV out of winter storage, plug it in to shore power, turn on the LP gas, and connect to city water to ensure that all electric and propane appliances function normally and there is no evidence of water leaks. Also run the air conditioning units and furnace, turn on the refrigerator and freezer, start the water heater, and power up the generator and run with a full load.

Connect to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check and Double Check

Top off the fluid levels in your batteries, check all hoses and belts for cracking, and all fluid levels on a motorized RV. Also check the converter and/or inverter for proper voltage. Check the headlights and turn signals. Take a look at all your hitch and towing equipment. Check fire extinguishers, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and propane sensor.

Turn on the refrigerator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kick the Tires

Check the age of the tires—RV tires usually age out before they wear out.

Hook up the sewer and flush the tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check that all tires are properly inflated. Improperly inflated tires means more money for fuel. Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency. Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure and blowout.

Or drive to the nearest dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have a travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer you may need to pack wheel bearings.

Clean the tires and rims and inspect them for evidence of any splits or cracks in the sidewalls and weatherization damage.

Not the way to care for tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jack it Up

Regardless of your RV type, check the jacks and leveling systems, the awnings, crank and run the generator and service if required.

Open awnings and check for frayed or ripped material. Remove stains and mildew with special awning cleaner and allow awning to dry before rolling back up. Check hardware for functionality and replace as needed.

Keep the RV clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep it Clean

Regular cleaning of a recreational vehicle is essential for its maintenance and to ensure the longevity of your RV especially after a long winter in storage. Cleaning starts with your RV roof, because whatever lands on your roof eventually ends up everywhere else on the RV. Always exercise extreme care when working on the roof of an RV, especially when wet.

Cleaning starts with the RV roof © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When inspecting the roof look for tears or holes. Beware of small slices that can allow water intrusion. Get any holes or slices repaired immediately.

Look for peeling, cracking, or openings in the sealants and if found should be cleaned, dried, and resealed.

Cleaning includes the side mirrors…oops, a late snow fall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Next clean the front of the RV including side mirrors, the side walls, and back using a quality RV wash such as McGuire’s. The safest and easiest way to reach the upper part of the RV is with an extension pole system.

Pay special attention to the seams where the wall joints, storage bay doors, marker lights, and appliance outlets are found. Remove dirt, bugs, tar, and other road residue from the surface of your RV.

Finally, it’s time to wax the beast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inspect the side walls and around windows and doors for cracks or voids in the seams and seals. Scrape and reseal any affected areas with the appropriate sealant.

After a general clean with the soap and water it’s time to wax the beast with a quality product such as McGuire’s Wash and Wax.

Worth Pondering…

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

—Ben Stein

Is Your RV Road Ready?

Are you and your RV ready for a brand new camping season?

There’s something magical about a summer road trip. And it’s a standby in literature and movies—from John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley to Smokey and the Bandit.

Much has changed in RVs over the years © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Times have certainly changed since Steinbeck and his dog Charley made their way across the country 54 years ago. But one thing hasn’t changed: A summer road trip is still the best way to see America, see its natural wonders, national parks, historic sites, and big-name tourist attractions.

But RVers still travel with and pamper their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hitting the open road can be the highlight of any spring or summer camping expedition but don’t let preventable maintenance issues put a damper on your vacation.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance includes inspection of the entire unit from top to bottom on a regular basis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance is designed to prevent or identify potential problems that could lead to mechanical breakdown, malfunction, or failure of a component or system. Don’t confuse this with regularly scheduled maintenance (SEE below).

Inspect all the roof and window seals of your RV and reseal any that are showing signs of damage or aging.

Washing and waxing your rig on a regular basis is an important part of preventive maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check awnings for damage, mildew, and insects.

Examine the hitch system for wear, loose bolts, and cracks.

Check for cracks in hoses and fan belts and replace if necessary.

Check all lights. Make sure headlights, fog lights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals are all functioning properly.

Preventive maintenance includes the interior of the rig © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance applies to the RV interior as well as the exterior. Stains become more difficult to remove when vinyl or leather is allowed to become dry.

Scheduled Maintenance

Schedule maintenance as required by the owner’s manuals © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Scheduled or routine maintenance is performed in intervals normally based on time, mileage, or hours.

Note: It is absolutely essential that you read your owner’s manual and warranty information in regards to who is responsible for what when it comes to scheduled maintenance. Adhere to the service schedule outlined in the manual. Scheduled maintenance that is required by the manufacturer and not performed can void your warranty.

Safety Alarms

Maintenance includes ensuring that all safety features are operational at all times © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check Smoke, LPG, and Carbon Monoxide alarms for proper operation and replace batteries as needed.

Battery Care

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check the water level in your batteries monthly. Remove the vent caps and look inside the fill wells. Check the electrolyte levels. The minimum level required for charging the battery is at the top of the plates. When you add water, use only distilled water and fill the cell to 1/8 inch below the fill well. Also remove any corrosion on the connections with a wire brush and baking soda/water solution.

Tire Maintenance

Not the way to care for your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tire manufacturers stress that there are four main considerations concerning tire care:

  • Proper air pressure should be maintained
  • Under-inflated tires can cause handling problems, increased tire wear, and even sudden tire failure
  • And don’t just check the pressure at the start of the season, but every time you are heading out
  • Age of the tires: RV tires usually age out before they wear out; tires should be inspected annually, especially after the first five to six years, regardless of the mileage

Emergency Road Service

A quality road service plan provides peace of mind for problems that occur down the road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Even with the best preparation, issues can still arise with your RV, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a roadside assistance plan.

Like any insurance plan, Emergency Road Service is an investment that you hope you’ll never need. But if you spend much time on the road, sooner or later you’ll have a breakdown.

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Excellent plans are available from CoachNet and AAA.

Your plan should provide coverage for emergency gas/fuel, lockout service, tire changes, and jump-starts. These services should be available no matter where you travel. Think about your needs and ensure that your emergency assistance plan will meet them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my plan cover all vehicles that we normally travel with: motorhome, toad, trailer?
  • Does my plan include a lodging allowance if we aren’t able to stay in our RV?
  • Am I covered in the U.S. and Canada?
  • Does my plan have an upper limit? A deductible?
  • What hoops do I have to jump through to get reimbursed if I have to pay cash for service?
See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Shop around. Match your plan to your needs and your budget—and you’ll drive with peace of mind this spring and summer.

See you down the road and Happy and Safe RVing!

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.

—Fitzhugh Mullan